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BMC equipment supply stable as quarantined staff cycle back, travel nurses arrive to help

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PITTSFIELD — By early next week, most of the 160 Berkshire Health Systems staff who were furloughed for quarantine after exposure to patients infected with the new coronavirus will have returned to work.

This week, 20 to 30 workers will be returning each day, after finishing the quarantine period that lasts 14 days from the time of exposure, Darlene Rodowicz, the company's executive vice president, said in a meeting with other BHS officials and Eagle staff Tuesday.

And at least 54 temporary nurses will continue to cycle in, providing Berkshire Medical Center and its network with extra staff to manage a possible surge of COVID-19 cases.

"It could mean that we're going to be overstaffed, or it could mean that as our employees and their families start to experience COVID, that we'll have the extra staff to replace them," Rodowicz said, noting that the hospital is fortunate to have hired travel nurses early on, since there are no more left to hire nationwide amid the crisis.

"It's a bit of a silver lining for our community," she added.

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As Berkshire County braces for a spike in cases, Rodowicz wrote all workers Sunday about staffing and other developments, including a new shipment last week of personal protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile.

So far, one worker has tested positive; that was about the same time the first COVID-19 patient also tested positive, Rodowicz said.

Yet, there are plenty of other bugs going around that could mimic symptoms of the virus, said Chief Medical Director Dr. James Lederer.

"You almost wish this would do something unique, like turn your hair green," he said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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